Toxic brownish water will no longer gush toward San Francisco Bay from Pacific Steel Casting Company in Berkeley, as a result of Baykeeper’s successful Clean Water Act lawsuit against the facility.
Pacific Steel, the fourth largest steel foundry in the U.S., agreed this month to stop rainy-season runoff pollution that has been flowing from the facility to the Bay. To repair the damage done by its past pollution, the company will also provide funds for Bay Area environmental restoration projects.
Baykeeper sued Pacific Steel after documenting that runoff from the facility was contaminated with pollutants that included high levels of toxic heavy metals, including aluminum, copper, iron, and zinc. We collected samples of the facility’s runoff and observed visibly polluted water being pumped from Pacific Steel into the street. From the street, the polluted water flowed to storm drains that empty directly into San Francisco Bay. The gushing water is shown in the video below.
We were particularly concerned about pollution from Pacific Steel because the location is surrounded by many storm drains, and contaminated rainwater that runs into storm drains is emptied into the Bay without being treated or filtered. In addition, steel foundry industrial operations include melting, blasting, and processing of toxic heavy metals, which can get washed into the Bay if they come into contact with rainwater.
Pacific Steel signed a legally-binding agreement that requires installation of new pollution controls that Baykeeper recommended specifically for this facility. In addition to stopping the sump pump that sent water into the street, the company will install downspout filters to reduce pollutants flowing off rooftops and put pollutant-trapping media filters in storm drains. These changes, along with additional housekeeping and sweeping, will significantly reduce Pacific Steel’s contamination of the Bay.
The company will also collect and test samples of its storm water runoff to ensure that pollution levels decrease. Baykeeper will monitor these pollution testing results over the next two years to make sure pollutant levels have been adequately reduced.
To partly mitigate environmental damage caused by its past pollution, Pacific Steel is contributing funds to the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, a nonprofit organization that funds environmental restoration projects in the Bay Area.
This agreement with Pacific Steel is the latest victory in Baykeeper’s Bay-Safe Industry campaign. The campaign targets widespread, illegal runoff that flows into San Francisco Bay from most of the Bay Area’s 1,300 industrial facilities. In addition to legal action against Pacific Steel and other facilities found to be significantly polluting the Bay, the campaign includes outreach and education to industrial facilities, and advocacy to strengthen controls on industrial storm water.
Photo by Steve Cox (Flickr/CC)